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Why are technical recruiters so clueless? (37signals.com)
148 points by jswinghammer on Oct 5, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 114 comments



Why are technical recruiters so clueless?

Because they are a little less clueless than most HR departments.

Are there any recruiters working in technology who get it?

Yes. The top 1 or 2%. The bell curve of competency for recruiters is a lot steeper at the high end, so finding one who "gets it" is difficult. So when you do, keep them. Whether you're hiring or looking, they can change your life.

The problem with this kind of hackery is that it has breed an outright animosity to recruiters in large parts of the tech world.

When you stop to think about it, this may not be such as bad thing for the top 1 or 2% of recruiters. Once the wheat is separated from the chaff, it becomes more straight forward for a competent recruiter to do their thing and gain your trust.

In this way, recruiters have a lot in common with real estate agents, car salesmen, lawyers, and even programmers. The masses of mediocre ones give the whole profession a bad name, but the best rise to the top and really do make a difference.


I'm a technical recruiter and I agree with the majority of this post to be honest.

My background: 2.1 in Software Development from a leading Uni in Ireland. 2 years experience as a web developer for a medium sized Irish software firm and I've been in recruitment for just over 2 years now.

The amount of fellow recruiters I come across who believe java & javascript are one and the same for example is ridiculous.

The masses of mediocre ones give the whole profession a bad name

This is unequivocally my biggest hurdle, convincing candidates & clients alike that I know my Ruby from my Perl.

Good article, I approve! ;)


How are you liking it? Don't you prefer to do development yourself? What's the hardest thing about the job? Would you recommend it to other developers?


I love recruitment, I honestly do. Primarily because of the money I make!

I loved working as a developer but there was a distinct lack of social and professional interaction that eventually led to me looking at other options.

It was satisfying completing a difficult project and seeing it implemented but I get infinitely more satisfaction from finding someone their perfect job as well as landing a juicy commission payment for the privilege of doing so!

Hardest part: The sales aspect. It is still a very sales orientated career and it can be difficult to not come across as the 'cheesy salesman' and hammer home the point that I am a developer by trade but a recruiter by choice.

I don't know if I would recommend it to other developers. It's quite hard to get established in the industry and start earning enough money to realise the potential of the career.


Do you have a github? I know that if a recruiter included a github link in their email, I would take a much more serious look.


Valid point.

There is a line though that I need to be careful not to cross.

Someone elsewhere on this thread made the point that technical understanding doesn't automatically equate to an excellent technical recruiter as sales/communication ability is just as important.

As much as I want my clients to understand that I'm not a wannabe who drops in a few buzz words to sound knowledgeable I am also not just a code monkey dressed up in a suit.


No offense, but the fact that the money aspect is what you like the most puts me off a bit... it feels too much like the stereotypical "sales guy".

However, it explains why I dealt with a couple of recruiters who touted their PhD in their email signature. I couldn't really understand why someone with a PhD would "end up" being a recruiter. But money can explain it I suppose. (they were still bad though)


The money is nice, and it is a "Sales" job, but their is some creativity to it. You are trying to marry a candidate to a client. They are both moving targets. Its a skill game, more than a "bang the phones" game that a normal sales job is.

There are a number of quants and C++ developers who made the move to recruiting, sometimes after talking to a recruiter and realizing that there is money to be made (usually more than they are making). I related to this: I did a lot of IT and web development work in my youth, and that always entailed being someone's bitch and not getting recognized for the work I did (Only the mess ups get noticed: Like being a goalie in soccer). In recruiting, you see the angles, work your relationships and make money. Its a one person job (mostly) and there is a lot of enjoyment in that aspect. At the end of the day you say "I did X placements, billed Y amount. Thats what I did", which isn't about the money as much as its about having a quantitative score that demonstrates your productivity.


This is exactly why I started doing training and writing, which led me to my current gig at the Pragmatic Bookshelf - I get to work with smart people who want my help. I get to see people succeed, and I get to share in the success instead of handling the late night support calls when the app is down cos the client's cruddy shared host went offline.

I'll always love developing, but I long ago learned that my greatest strength is helping other people become better.


really, it puts you off that people who exchange time for money would like to get the most money possible for their time?


I'm not put off by someone maximizing the money they're getting for what they do, but I am a little bit by people who do what they do to maximize the money they're getting. Of course, it's a matter of personal taste and point-of-view...

But "put off" might not have been the right word, maybe "disappointed" or "disinterested" would have been better. Basically, I saw swombat's question as a question from a developer interested in knowing if he might be missing something, if recruiting might be an interesting career path for hims. And the reply was like "the money, man!".

I could just imagine the real-life conversation, and know I'd think "oh ok... nevermind, I thought there was more to it".


I could just imagine the real-life conversation, and know I'd think "oh ok... nevermind, I thought there was more to it".

Ask any recruiter why they do what they do and I can guarantee that every single person that makes more than £70k per annum will cite money as the primary reason they are in the game.

People become doctors to help cure sick people.

People become architects to design buildings.

People become teachers to educate children.

People become recruiters to make money.

It may seem like one would get into this business to help people find their perfect career and so on and to be honest with you, a lot of people have that exact intention when they start. Those that last more than a year in the industry will have lost sight of that original intention as the financial reward is far greater than the satisfaction gained through acting as a middleman between candidate and client.


So in your opinion, the idea of working is sort of like Pascal's Wager where you should only work hard, and build the best relationships you can just in case you get top dollar, and even then you didn't really deserve it-it was arbitarily given to you.

Otherwise, just be mediocre and be happy to be getting what you're getting?

That makes absolutely zero sense.


It's a common argument - either you work for money or you work because you love the work itself. Besides what should be common sense, there have been plenty of studies denoting that working simply for money does not bring happiness (assuming you are above the poverty line and even then in many cases), especially long term.


That's not what I said at all. (and I don't see how you interpreted it that way)

To put it simply, though it is understood that one needs to make money and that it's natural to want to be paid as much as possible for whatever your work is, to a certain extent I value the work itself a bit above the pay. Meaning that I won't just do what I like if it doesn't pay anything, but above a certain level of pay, I'd rather maximize the fulfillment from the job itself.

In that specific conversation I (and I believe swombat as well) got interested in what being a recruiter means and how it could be a fulfilling job in a different way than programming can be. The same way one could look at public speaking as interesting because it's very different from programming. Thus the point of view of someone who was a developer turned recruiter interested me. (with the idea that a developer being usually paid well over decent living conditions, recruiting must be interesting in and of itself* )

However, the answer lost my interest for being primarily monetary, rather than the money being the icing on the cake.

But again, to each his own.

* I'm sure it is. It's just a reflection over that particular conversation.


No offence to the above - but it's the same reason you don't find knowledgeable people working in the Software section of the bookstore.

Go into the english-lit / history section of a good bookstore in a university town and the odds are the people working there will have degrees / PhDs in the topic.

Go into the engineering section and the guy on the till is unlikely to be a pEng/CEng.


How do you convince companies and potential candidates that you know your stuff?


That's exactly it. The recruiters who "get it" are doing quant/C++ recruitment for investment banks, RoR/Flash guys doing marketing websites will never see them.


Actually I had some of those tell me to put the number of lines of code I've written on my resume "...because tech guys like that stuff." Honestly, it was a great ice-breaker when I said "The recruiters added that. I think it's a total shit metric." However, in hindsight, I wonder why. Was it just to get past HR or was it to impress the hiring managers. Over at the I-banks, the guys near the trading desks actually know quite a lot. The further you get away...


I've laughed at how little technical recruiters know or understand the underlying technology.

At the same time, I haven't noticed that the few recruiters who understood the underlying technology did any better. In fact, I haven't any good experience with "tech savy" recruiters.

I think it's similar to management. A former-programmer can easily be a terrible manager - they don't know the discipline of project management AND they want to tell you how to do your job. A "tech savy" recruiter can't prove you know anything to the client but still presents you with tech quiz questions to prove their usefulness.


Maybe - but it can be though to be a recruiter if you can't even get your prospect to talk to you.

And I guess there are plenty of programmers who can't be bothered to even read this spam, much less considering whether it is worth actually reading.

Going by the definition given in court by the pirate bay founders, "undesired commercial messages".


Shoot he should respond to this "I created the Ruby on Rails framework. My base salary is $5,000,000 a year. Looking forward to relocating to SF"


No, because he knows the recruiter will have no idea what that means. She's just reading words off a page.


Reading? Don't you mean copying?


Hey, c'mon now... they also paste.


Why are technical recruiters so clueless?

because technical recruiters, contrary to popular belief, are not hired to get the best candidates.

Technical recruiters (and agencies) are hired to give the middle manager denyability if a hiring mistake is made. I mean, if you hire your brother's friend and he turns out to be some kind of crack fiend who ebays your spare parts bin for more drugs, well, you've got a fairly good chance of getting fired in the fallout. Now, if a recruiter recommends the same guy and the same thing happens, well, now you can push some of the blame off on the recruiter. there's no question about nepotism, etc.. the professional recruiter recommended the guy.


I can see your point but unfortunately that's absolute rubbish.

There is a ridiculously small number of people who pay silly money to recruiters to cover nepotism but the reality is that employers hand over five figure sums to recruiters because they don't want to trawl through hundreds of CV's in the hope of finding the right candidate over the space of a few weeks.

Sit with me for an hour discussing a senior level role and I will have three incredible CV's sitting on your desk within a week. If the right person for the job is one of those three, great, now pay me ridiculous money, otherwise it hasn't cost you a penny.


It is quite possible that I'm just sour grapeing the industry because I have failed myself several times. my experience:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1761329

In this case, I just don't understand why they'd not take the person when I suggested them (I think they had reason to respect and trust my opinion; I had been working for them for a while, giving good advice. In fact, all this was in preparation for me leaving; after I had been at the new job for a year or so they spent considerable effort and money getting me to come back.)

I was trying to get them to hire someone who worked for me for some time (which is to say someone who's work habits and skills I knew well) to fill the position I was leaving vacant.

The agency in question had a long history of sending us people for mid to senior sysadmin positions who I wouldn't hire for $15/hr.

So yeah, I am missing something about how the industry works, and middle management covering it's ass fits the symptoms perfectly.

Obviously there could be something else going on that I don't understand.


I was actually hired in my current role by a competent technical recruiter. He's not a technical person but he sure knows how to find good technical people. His trick is to get good people to come to him by setting up events, conferences and pub meetups around interesting topics (e.g. the latest JVM language or Agile development practices). Of course, 90% of the people who go there aren't looking for jobs but I expect he does pretty well out of the 10% that are.

I think this is actually the right way to go about recruitment. Don't spam 100s of people on the off chance they're currently unhappy and looking to move. Just set up an environment which attracts the best people in the industry but also allows them to consider new opportunities. Not only that but as a recruiter you are immersed in the world you are recruiting for and cannot help learn and understand more about it (e.g. this morning I got an email on the list mentioning a possible talk about Jaskell - a language I hadn't even heard of but apparently, my recruiter has :)).


"Technical" recruiters don't understand technology. The ones I've met are only capable of handling bingo sheets of buzzwords.

My take on the whole recruiter industry is that the parasitic field of recruiters exists because of 2 factors:

1. Mismanagers don't know how to hire people. Is someone skilled? They don't know. Will someone make a good fit? They don't know. It is like Supreme Court Justice Potter's remark "I'll know it when I see it."

2. Companies don't like how references have devolved to "X worked here from Y to Z and is/is not eligible for rehire." This makes paying the 20-40% of the first year's salary for a new hire a cheap way to evade lawyers, courts and previous employer's HR departments. In short, recruiters get hired by HR departments to get around other HR departments (perhaps one should consider getting rid of one's HR dept?).


Funny timing on this story: I was contacted yesterday at work by a recruiter. He called my cell phone and my typical response is to not answer calls that are not pre-defined contacts at work. The guy then went to my LinkedIn profile, found my company, went to the company website, and then called my office. I gave him an earful about how unprofessional I thought it was for him to be contacting me at my job to recruit for another position and then hung up on him when he tried to backpedal saying he was just looking for referrals. In my experience, recruiters are not only clueless but also rude and shady.

I have personally known a wonderful recruiter and despite my respect for her, I have very little respect for the average recruiter. The profession itself does provide value as it is truly difficult to find good people, but the low signal to noise among recruiters themselves can just as easily make it more difficult to find the right person.


I'm not entirely sure why DHH assumes that this email was not, in fact, sent via "some shady Russians"...


If they’re just going to spam people from emails they find on tech sites, why not just pay some shady Russians to do it?

Based on some of the emails I've gotten, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what some of them do.

It's easier and much cheaper in the short run to just spam everyone with a job opportunity and sort through responses versus actually doing the legwork to find qualified candidates.

Of course, in the long run it's going to make me skeptical of any future opportunities they send my way, and it certainly isn't going to make me want to hire them if I ever find myself on the other side of the table.


I never understood why they stop communicating if an opportunity doesn't pan out? Why wouldn't they be interested in cultivating a long term relationship?

That's what I think I would do if I were a recruiter. I'd keep in touch with say 200 people I know are really good and keep placing them as they switched jobs. I'm guessing at least 10 or 20 of those people would be switching jobs every year.


Sounds more like an agent, in the sports/entertainment sense. There might just be a market there. Let the masses of mediocre/average programmers dink around with mediocre/average recruiters, while the quality ones have someone who actually cares focused on them.

The biggest issue is that an "agent" would need to not just maintain relationships with quality job candidates, but also quality employers. If all you're offering me is a crappy internal dev job doing .NET or Java for a health care giant, why should I work with you over any of the dice/careerbuilder/monster cattle calls?


I would really like to work with that kind of person. Like everyone else, I've had useless encounters with recruiters, and I feel like someone with more experience and knowledge of the job world should be able to match me up better with a job and a salary.

Somebody was asking if he was reaching his pay limit here not long ago. One reason for that question is that it's very hard for one to know how they compare to other people. An agent/super-recruiter would know that and could do whatever is needed to fix it.

In a way, it reminds me of the idea of investing in people: instead of putting my money in a company I believe in, how could one put money on somebody who is talented and will more likely be successful? Well, such a recruiter could basically do that. Follow talented people around, know what they do and like doing, and advise them in terms of what salary they can expect, where they should be in their career...

The question is, of course: would I qualify to get a good agent? :)


We just launched a site today that lets you hire an agent.

Check it out at www.CareerElement.com!


If you were a recruiter, how could you be sure the 200 people that you're investing (time/energy) in are "really good"?

I have a recruiter who placed me back in 1997, placed several excellent ex-co-workers into that same job, and whom I've continued to use (as a hiring manager) over the years and whose emails/calls I faithfully respond to when he's looking for help placing or sourcing (outside of my current company).

So, the model you're describing can definitely work, but if you try it with 200 "duds", you'll have a much harder row to hoe. The people who can't accurately identify talent may be far better served with their current one-shot shotgun methods.


I'd look at their open source work, contact references, etc. I think I'd generally be able to recognize good people, especially if I accumulated them gradually over my "recruiting career".


Because being good at your job would put you out of work. :-)

If you place people into positions that they really fit with, odds are they would stay longer, ergo, less money for you.

What you would need to do is sell yourself as an agent that is constantly evaluating new gigs for a monthly fee. I think that might actually work really well for devs that consult as a primary business.


But a) when they are in a position to hire people they will call you/recommend you to their friends and b) when they do move, it will earn you a much larger commission than an entry level job.

It's speculative sure, but all long-term investments are.


How about negotiating a different pay-structure, that aligns interests better?


Isn't that exactly what I suggested?


In general, yes. Though I thought more about getting a low percentage of income for as long as the job lasts, instead of a big percentage of the first annual income after three months.


You'd have to do a lot to prove to me you're not just cold calling me and actually interested in my career and me as a developer. No recruiter has done that to date.

Having a recruiter "keep in touch with me" now feels awfully a lot like they're cold calling/emailing me. I'll now go to great lengths to take a job not offered by a recruiter.


Yeah, I'd buy you drinks and stuff. You'd be one of my 200 top people that I cultivate.

I'd be an awesome recruiter :-) But I'm too introverted I think.


> But I'm too introverted I think.

When it comes down to it, that's just an excuse. If you think being a recruiter would appeal to you, then do it. It's cheesy to say that you can do anything you can put your mind to, but there truly is no one holding you back other than yourself.

I think the whole recruiter/agent idea for young professionals makes a hell of a lot of sense, and I'd be happy to be one of your early clients :)


The quality recruiters do so. I personally just get swamped and neglect sending out updates.

Many times candidates are also applying for several roles and may not follow up on their own. I think the worst blunder is when a candidate desires feedback and gets only silence. Note that people, in general, hate delivering bad news "You were too weak on core Java / bad breath" and so avoid the conversation.

The recruiters in the field for several years (5+) sometimes place a candidate 2-3 x in new positions. Recruiters keep up with the rock-star talent, which is always in high demand.

It gets difficult to remember who does / is what if they are middle/average when burning through 200 profiles a day or 50 calls / day. Though I tend to do 50 / 10 for quality head hunting.


I know recruiters that do this.

You don't maintain constant contact, but you avoid burning bridges and keep the name in your contacts or linkedIn or whatever. When the right position comes up, you re-establish contact.


I have wondered the same thing. Responding and responding in a timely manner when the opportunity doesn't pan out would be an improvement.


'They' are actually robots. In my experience they never stop communicating. Once you are in the database, they'll spam you forever.


Reply with an outrageous salary that would actually encourage you to switch jobs. For example, say that you're looking for IC positions with a minimum base of $250k (and that all of your friends are in that same compensation bracket).

In my experience, that works well. As does, "I have N years left of graduate school and will not consider other opportunities until that is complete."


I just (honestly) tell them that I'm only interested in positions that allow me to work almost-exclusively from home. That normally makes them go away.


I suspect really good programmers don't switch jobs all that often. They have a lot of leverage in finding a job they like, and once they've done that why leave? Sure stuff can happen, but not very often.


My guess is that DHH is primarily annoyed that the spammy email started by addressing him as "Dave".


That's just extra spice on top. I fucking hate it when people I don't know assumes it okay to make up a nickname for me.


Really? I get called Dave, David, or even Davide (I live in Italy so even David might come out as "Dah-veed") and I really don't care as long as the person is nice and respectful and otherwise pleasant to communicate with (annoying recruiters don't really count).

I mostly use it as a measure of how clued-in they are about me, but even some of the people who have mistaken me for a Davide (not the statue, unfortunately), have been very well-intentioned people with interesting things to say.


I don't care about slight misspellings or mispronunciation, (I get it all the time with the last name of "Reese"), by my biggest pet peeve is people assuming that John is short for Jonathon, even if/after they see my named spelled with the "h"...


Point, some spell it Johnathan. I, myself, spell it Jonathan.


TL;DR: DHH is annoyed that there are people in the tech industry who have never heard of him.


No, he's legitimately complaining about people spamming out recruitment emails without doing any research on the people they are contacting. For example, my resume on my personal website says "I am not interested in moving from Portland. Really. Seriously." My LinkedIn profile says "I am happily located in Portland, OR. Please don't bother me with job possibilities that require moving somewhere else." And yet, I would say that only about 5% of the emails I get from recruiters are for local or telecommute jobs. The other 95% are for relocation to the Bay Area or Seattle.


to be fair, a telecommute job would not require you to relocate, so it seems pretty legitimate ;)


You should re-read what I wrote more carefully. Telecommute was grouped together with local jobs in the acceptable 5%.


That's why me and my friends launched http://recruiter-review.com

(I hope you don't consider this spam)


Please replace the Facebook login with a more generic OpenId login.


I don't have Facebook, and I don't use OpenId. What now?


Panic - apparently you don't exist.


Top recruiters work in the highest paying industries, which rarely includes technology (except in the upper echelons). Most of these recruiters are from large firms, filling contract or lower level hires that net the firm maybe $10-20k and gets them personally a few hundred extra bones in their pockets. Its the McDonalds end of recruiting.

On the other hand, there is a small (as mentioned above) 1-2% of recruiters who work in really high paying sectors that really know their industries. They're like the Outback Steakhouse of their profession. They still need to work with a lot of candidates, but it pays for them to go to conferences, read industry material and even (gasp) learn programming themselves (Thanks Zed!).


The barrier to entry in the recruiting industry is low, i.e. a cellphone, an internet connection and some available time.

It beats trying to sell real-estate for those "in transition" because you can do it in your pajamas or pretend to be a career coach.

They're so clueless because most recruiters just search the web for jobs you could have found yourself, and then try to work their way into getting a cut. Therefore a typical recruiter reduces a person's chance for a job.

There are some good one's out there. But they're few and far between. Because they have done their research prior to contacting you, their emails will be short, to the point, and designed to screen for deal breakers, "Would you be interested in a job in St. Louis?"


>The barrier to entry in the recruiting industry is low, i.e. a cellphone, an internet connection and some available time.

There is something more to it than that. I've tried to become a recruiter several times, and I've gotten shot down every time I tried, even though I can demonstrate a history of hiring good people.


Shot down by whom?

There's nothing preventing someone from hanging a shingle as a recruiter.

That's what I was getting at.

Edit: Recruiting is one of those "make your own jobs" Ehrenreich describes in Bait and Switch.


Shot down by whom?

the company I was attempting to recruit for.

I've got at least one example where I offered a person I knew was good to a company that had hired me in the past. He was rejected without an interview. Being as I couldn't help the guy, I recommended him to an agency that worked with that company, and he got the job. Everyone seemed pretty happy with the deal, the guy stayed on for several years and finally left because the agency involved was incredibly sketchy.

Of course, I didn't get a commission out of the deal. I mean, I'm not complaining too much; when I recommended the guy to the agency, I knew from that point forward that I had zero chance of earning anything from the deal. Maybe that's how it should be? I don't know.

My point is that recruiting goes way beyond just finding good people. Honestly, I'm not sure exactly what the rest of the value you need to provide is, but I do know that I can provide good people, and that simply is not enough.


Strong outgoing sales like personality. This role is mostly a sales position over the phone, with varying degree's of research for the best candidates. EG: finding a Sr Director of Technology in the SEO space for a $10M firm in the Valley; sourcing other firms with similar technical stacks; headhunting other Directors; selling the company; selling the hiring manager on the candidate; hopefully magic occurs.

But, many times its just X number of candidates results in X number of interviews and X number of offers. Some companies are more interested in volume, and some are more interested in placements (results) only.

Breakdown of different types of recruiters: http://www.job-hunt.org/recruit.shtml

Examples of high-quality retained search firms: http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/10553203/c_10676328


A good list of candidates is a starting point, but it is still necessary to sell employers.

Most recruiters don't do either. They swing for the fences using spam as in the article. Some prey on desperation and slide towards 419 territory with career coaching and similar services.


I guess technical recruiters will never be any good until you find ex software developers to be technical recruiters - and I can't think you'd find many software developers willing to do that.

I am convinced there are still many ways for recruiting to be fixed by disruptive startups


I think a recruiting firm with no technical skills should contract out preliminary interview process to actual software developers. Their task should be weed out any fakers and improve quality.

The paid compensation on a part time basis would attract developers to get involved. It would be one or two interviews per day which would not steal time from their day job and put some extra dough into their pockets.

Win-Win for both.


Funny you say that. I've often thought about selling my interviewing skills to other companies. They tell me I'm pretty good at it. Sign me up.

Actually I want to trade interviewing skills with someone who knows how to hire a good mathematician. I've been worried about how to approach interviewing the statistician that I intend to hire eventually.


I am convinced there are still many ways for recruiting to be fixed by disruptive startups

I couldn't agree more. I've been actively trying to tackle this problem, so far without success, for a while now.


I'm working on a developer recruitment based startup at the moment, if you want to grab coffee sometime give me a shout.

I'm not in London at the moment but I should be shortly (i.e. as soon as I can find somewhere in London to live !)


Sounds like a plan. One point on your site though:

Brand has huge influence when trying to hire the best, so unlike recruiters we don't hide your brand.

There are two reasons why recruiters don't advertise company names:

1) They don't want the competition muscling in.

2) A lot of companies don't want their brand advertised as they don't want the competition to know that they are hiring at certain levels and they also don't want to be pestered by other agencies who spotted the advert and are trying to pitch their services.


And the third reason: to stop the candidate going direct to the company.

But from a candidates viewpoint they don't really care what reason the recruiter has for hiding the company name, it takes away valuable information from them when looking at job ads.

There are always going to be some companies who prefer not to be named (stealth hedge funds, etc.) but I think they're in a relatively small minority.

I suspect for the most part avoiding letting the competition know what you're hiring for is fairly pointless, as the first thing your recruiter is going to do is to call the best potential candidates and pitch them the job. And as it turns out the best potential candidates are often most likely to be working for your competitors.

When I was working in investment banking and got a call for a recruiter hiring for a rival trading desk I frequently pumped them for information which we could use for our own advantage. I'm pretty sure everyone else does that as well.


I notice you're a recruiter in the UK. I'm not in London / SE - are you seeing many companies accept remote workers? (I'm in the East Midlands, currently a remote worker, and don't want to give that up)


To be honest, I'm not seeing a huge amount of remote working opportunities at the moment. I can't really explain the trend but for the last 6 months I've only had 1 or 2 remote working roles.


I'm disappointed to see someone as smart as David casually leaning on a stereotype like "shady Russians".

I'm confident that he wouldn't have said "sneaky Jews" or "naive Canadians" or "cheap Mexicans".


have it ever crossed you mind that if someone as smart as David is casually leaning on a stereotype than there are some reasons behind the stereotype?


Vlad, Right or wrong, it's still a stereotype, and I'd appreciate that it be kept off the air. Signed: Arrogant Frenchman ;-) Dan


i don't honestly understand what is wrong (to the extent what it is almost considered a 10-letter word) about stereotypes usage. A stereotype is just a result of analytical and/or statistical aggregation. In this particular case he didn't stated what all Russians are shady. He stated that there is a [non-empty, and we all know it is really far from empty] set of Russians that have common trait of being shady and there is subset of them such that some email spamming work can be outsourced to them. What is wrong with such stereotype usage?

And is it just my bad luck with Russians (what are the odds?), that i do prefer Moscow-Paris flights when majority of passengers are French than the flights of Russian airlines with majority of passengers being Russians?


What's "wrong" with stereotypes is that the political correctness mindset denies there's the truth underneath these stereotypes. But obviously is.

My country has an healthy measure against correctness. We have lots of terrible jokes exploiting stereotypes off all nations. We still delightfully tell jokes about Nazis (well we were the first they attacked during WWII and also a most deserted country afterwards), though the war ended so long ago. We have jokes on Russians (hundreds of years of conflicts with those people), Jews (yeah even on how Germans killed them in out land), Americans, Muslims and so on.

And you know what.. it turns out to be extremely healthy. The foreigners (esp Americans!) are frightened on how terrible and rude these jokes are, but in fact such jokes dissolve many tensions instead of accumulating them.

The trick is: we also laugh of ourselves. Intensively.


DHH is not exactly known for being politically correct.


The email that DHH got is essentially spam since he is obviously not looking for a job.

I've gotten my previous two jobs via "technical recruiters". If you expect them to hack on operating systems in their spare time you'll probably be disappointed, but IMO they are useful as market makers and are highly motivated to match you up w/ an employer that will be happy w/ you (since there is typically a 3-month probation before they're paid, and it can lead to repeat business). I wouldn't bash them for being technically ignorant since it's not as if internal HR recruiters are known for their technical proficiency either.


True story: while managing a decently sized development org at MSFT, I used to regularly get contacted by the technical recruiters for the contracting agencies telling me I was oddly perfectly qualified to do some entry-level work!

Of course, this may be a successful recruiting approach, as the hourly net pay for the entry-level contractors frequently worked out to more than the salary pay for mid-level folks, due to all of the overtime. No benefits, but if you're in a situation with a spouse with a decent comp. package, it could certainly be an alternative.


I have by coincidence been involved with recruitment lately primarily of highly skilled UX, Design and technical people.

Although I am not a developer I do know my Perl from my Ruby, from my Haskel and that there are two types of javabeans. One drinkable one non-drinkable.

The primary challenge is that the people that are good aren't looking for work, in fact they probably never will have to as they transition naturally in a personal growth curve within their own social network.

So if you need to find good people you have to have your ears open and know where to look for them. This is the challenge but also interesting in more than one way.

If you know how to find the right people for the right job, you will gain insight into how to find the right customers for your product.

And that is a very interesting skill to get IMHO.


The best way to tell a good recruiter from a clueless (normal) one is whether they have an exclusive arrangement with the employer. This is as rare as good recruiters are. It is more common in hiring for senior jobs in big companies.


From a recruiter e-mail I received this week:

  The position is based in Bucharest but 
  extensive international travelling is required.
Umm… thanks, I guess.


Maybe there's an opportunity here to build a web-based recruiter reputation system. The good recruiters would be happy to stand out from the bad.


The good recruiters would be happy to stand out from the bad.

Only if you can provide some ex-ante assurance to the good ones that your reputation system isn't going to be gamed by bad ones who focus on gaming rather than being good recruiters.


Isn't that like saying "yeah, but it would have to work"? Seems like you should assume I meant that. In your scenario, the good recruiters would not stand out from the bad.


Speaking of career moves, this made it through GMail's spam detector this morning:

Hello Raghu,

Based on your resume, we are pleased to offer you the position of Mail Order Shipment Inspector( MOS Inspector) in our company. Your duties will include receipt and registration of packages, submission of detailed reports to our management and shipment of packages to end customers with postal labels we will send you. Depending on the number of packages you process, the monthly pay would be in the range of USD 1,500 - 2,500 Not sure if you are still looking for a job but let us know if so, so that I could get back to you with more details. Also, please add my address into your address book to prevent my messages from filtering into your junk mail folder.

Thank you, Victoria Premo


Recruiters just mass mailshot everyone because they're hoping to get a bite.

I've had recruiters ring me in the past with jobs that have a real tenuous connection with my skillset, yet they still think I'm suitable for the role.

The best one was when one rang me advertising for a £50k Senior Java Developer position. "Great!" someone might think, but at the time I had only just graduated from University and had 1 year of junior development experience under my belt. I told her this and THEN she read my CV/resume and realised.

Recruiters these days are nothing more than CV/resume pushers, chances are for every 100 or so they sent out, 1 or 2 will get an interview, 1 or 2 will get the job and they land themselves a healthy commission from the employer.

It's a lucrative business


This email sounds exactly like one that I got. It seriously is just spam.


Technical recruiters looks for different types than most of the audience on HN. The tech recruiter looks people who can write decent code, but at the end of the day, will be replaceable commodities in an organization.

As a tech recruiter, your job isn't to find the next DHH. It's to arbitrage technical talent to fill positions. I don't think that they're motivated by quality as much as they are by finding just the right quantity.


i was at a conference recently and had my phone on silent the whole day, I have 8 missed calls and 2 emails in the space of 7 hours from a recruiter. Really, if i didnt answer the first 4 times that day what made him think i would answer the last 4. he was recruiting for a php contractor position

</end rant>


Technical recruiters may be clueless, but this is hardly evidence. This is spam. I got a similar e-mail today saying they had viewed my "portfolio." Well I'm not sure how they did that since I don't have any work under the e-mail address they sent it to.


Because the average person is clueless, often including myself, and there is no reason or technical recruiters to be any different.

Anyhow, that's a pretty hilarious letter to send to DHH. I don't think it speaks to the general situation with technical recruiters, however.


The consensus here is that recruitment agencies are clueless. So why hasn't the internet disintermediated them? This would be a good startup idea for someone.


Thinking about some disintermediations. On the supply side with consumer goods you have replicable stock (buy in more t-shirts/potatos). Presumably this is not how jobs work. You need someone to go around harvesting individual opportunities. Like collecting truffles as opposed to growing potatos.

With other unique items such as houses / ebay on the demand side you have various market entry costs: can the 'buyer' physically come over and see the house / can you get their paypal details? With jobs it's very easy (cheap) to apply, while for the employer it is costly to assess applications - making the pre-screening service offered by recruiters attractive.

Plus to disintermediate you'd need employers to directly deal with more of the HR process. That's open to them already, I suspect it's just not something people relish. Like you could save money washing your car but often it's just seen as a pain to be avoided.

Perhaps there are other improvements besides disintermediation: e.g. jobs sites with recruiter reputation/feedback. Seems pretty obvious but I actually haven't seen it around much. Can imagine there would be some bias (everyone who didn't get a post is peeved, plus some that did).


The main problem here is that Kelly should start using some other tools/source of information instead relying only on "grep" for her job.


It's cute that you think she uses grep.


Originally i was going to write something sarcastic involving grep and instead i wrote that :D

EDIT: Hey, seriously, that was an attempt at humor...


hah, you think the recruiter uses a shell?


Because you sit opposite them in an institutional process, and you're at their mercy.


Because if they knew what they were doing, they'd be doing it.


There's like a one-in-tens-of-millions chance of that working. But it takes 5 seconds to send the email, and I imagine "I recruited DHH" is worth millions. So you quickly wind up with math suggesting that sending that email was worthwhile in terms of $/hour.


From the email, it's obvious that the recruiter had no idea who DHH was and was just hitting a list of "ruby programmers".




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